We don’t know anyone who has visited this city, capital of the state of Illinois, and hasn’t been captivated by its charm: it’s very cool and this is a fact, but it also has a very strong personality, it’s a paradise for lovers and it has a typical pizza pie dish, la mar de rica. Do you want to know what to see and do in Chicago ? You are in the right place We are going to tell you everything you should not miss in this incredible city!
This Illinois city went up in flames in 1871. For 3 days the city, built almost entirely of wood, was consumed in one of the most terrible fires in the history of the United States. More than 300 dead, more than 100,000 victims and a third of the city in ruins. But as usually happens in these cases, the city was not abandoned to its fate and resurfaced, its citizens took a breath, charged with decision and rebuilt the city with the idea of turning it into a benchmark in the country. And they got it.
The “second city”, as the locals like to call it, is today a metropolis that hooks those who visit it, it attracted us from the moment we set foot on its ground, perhaps out of desperation after more than 27 hours of travel, but we want to believe that it was by pure tuning. Chicago has definitely become one of our favorite places to travel across the United States .
If you plan to visit the main attractions of the city, you may be interested in getting the Chicago City PASS that includes most of them, if not all.
* At the end of the article you will find a lot of useful information , from where to sleep, to how to move and places to eat.
Also Read: Best places to visit in Madrid
Nothing better to start making friends with the city than doing a free tour like this one. It’s free, yes, but remember that your thing is to leave a good tip to the guide, who will surely work a lot!
Millennium Park and Grant Park
It is known as Downtown’s “front yard” and occupies a vast expanse between downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. Reserve a morning or an afternoon to stroll through these two attached parks, and visit all their attractions. Some of them are:
– Crown Fountain , a rectangular square flanked by two huge towers with LED screens where people’s faces appear. The best thing is that every little bit from their mouths huge jets come out that the boys take advantage of to take their weekly bath.
– Cloud Gate , although everyone knows her as “The Bean” (The Jewish). It is the best known and most photographed sculpture in Chicago and in our opinion, its author, the Indian Anish Kapoor, has embroidered it! It’s much cooler to have it in front of you than how we show it below…
– Jay Pritzker Concert Pavilion , where with luck you will be able to attend a performance. The design and size catch the eye.
– Buckingham Fountain , named after the Buckingham family, is considered one of the most beautiful fountains in the country, we will not be the ones who think otherwise. The really interesting thing about the fountain is the views of the Chicago skyline from here, plus in theory there are light and sound shows accompanied by huge jets of water that reach 40 meters, which they do every hour from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. We saw the jets, but nothing about lights and music!
Also Read: Best places to visit in Mexico
– Agora , a set of 106 statues to the south of the park. It is a somewhat disconcerting work, you don’t have to be a lynx to see that the statues are missing their heads! In reality, it’s like nonsense, those figures with enormous legs, each one in one direction, without the fundamental element to guide oneself, such as the brain… I like it!
It is a huge urban park, attached to Millennium Park and next to Lake Michigan, with paths to get lost, fountains, gardens, lakes, miniature golf, a climbing wall for those who like to climb, an ice skating rink (from November to March ), a children’s park, picnic areas, etc. If you want you can see their calendar of events here .
It is the most visited place in Chicago with 9 million annual visits. Actually the place is not very interesting, although the renovated Ferris wheel is a hoot! From here the tourist boats leave for a tour of the lake and there are some restaurants such as Giordano’s, a Mexican or Bubba Gump.
The port is nestled in the neighborhood of Streeter, named after the controversial character that bears that name. The guy must have been a racketeer and ruffian, the story is interesting . The fact is that he managed to have a neighborhood in his name! If you want to see him in person (or rather the statue of him) on Grand Ave at N McClurg Ct.
The Chicago Theater
An institution in the city, don’t tell me that red sign with white letters doesn’t ring a bell! It has offered performances since 1921 when it was the most expensive and largest theater in the country. The greatest artists of each moment have passed through here and it has been the venue for important film festivals. Currently you can visit it at one of its events or with a tour that for around €16 takes you to see this legendary corner.
Also Read: Best things to do in Cancun
Art Institute of Chicago
It is considered one of the most famous art museums in the world, almost nothing! If you are an art lover, it is a must visit. What you find in here are lots of rooms with different exhibitions of both painting and sculpture, impressionist and post-impressionist style. Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec with his stellar work ” At the Moulin Rouge”, Van Gogh with ” Bedroom in Arles” and “Self-Portrait of 1887” that you probably know, Dali, Kandinsky and my favorite: ” The Old Guitarist » by Picasso.
You can buy the ticket here (without queues). It’s included in the Chicago Explorer Pass , along with other attractions (starting at $69).
See Chicago from above
If Chicago has something they are skyscrapers, so it would be strange that some of them were not used to be able to go up and contemplate the best views of the city (of course, for a fee). You can visit the viewpoints of several buildings, these are the two that we did:
– Skydeck Chicago (Willis Tower) . If you go with your girlfriend and you want to look like a man, first you have to mentalize yourself well because the test of taking a step into the “void” is fucked up. Okay, you’ll be on a glass platform, but it’s still impressive! In the Willis Tower observation deck there are several of these platforms where you can climb and literally have Chicago at your feet. They are free, you will only have to queue a little to wait your turn. The price is $23 (included in the tourist card ). If you want to buy the ticket to the Willis Tower you can book it in advance here
– 360 Chicago Observation Deck (Hancock Building) . It is a beautiful black building 305 meters high. Although it is not as high as the previous one, in terms of views it has nothing to envy! Try to compete against the glass floor of your rival with the Tilt , a platform that tilts up to 30 degrees, leaving you somehow suspended over the city, the worst thing is that it has an extra cost of 7$. The price to enter the observatory is about $18, you can buy skip-the -line tickets here (included in the tourist pass ).
Some interesting churches
In addition to skyscrapers and huge office buildings, there are also places of worship with beautiful buildings. You can find some charming churches on your walking tour of Chicago, such as the Fourth Presbyterian Church right in front of the Hancock Building and with an ivy-covered facade, the Holy Name Cathedral that replaced the old cathedral after the fire of 1871.
The Field Museum
It is the natural history museum, one of the most important in the world in its field. Apparently he has such a large collection that only 4% of all objects are shown. Although without a doubt his right eye is Sue , the largest, most complete and best preserved T-Rex skeleton in the world (note, the head that accompanies the rest of the body is a replica, for weight reasons the original is exposed separately) . The fossil collection is also impressive (in fact, you can see the team of paleontologists working through some crystals, and yes, they are real). In the rest of the rooms of this immense museum there are exhibitions that take a journey through the history of the planet, in different periods and cultures.
Also Read: Things to see and do in Washington DC
The price of the museum is $22 for the basic ticket (if you want to see 3D movies and special exhibitions go up a bit). It is included in the Chicago Explorer Pass , along with other attractions ($69 price).
The Magnificent Mile
This is how Michigan Avenue in Chicago is known, which is compared to 5th Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. The most prestigious brand stores and many of the tallest buildings in the city are concentrated here.
It is the oldest planetarium in the United States, opened in the year 1930. Today you can visit several exhibitions of objects in astronomical instruments and old books. Also learn more about what we have about the universe that surrounds us with different shows and samples (perhaps a piece of the moon or meteorite is not touched every day). Admission is $34.94 and is also included in the Chicago Explorer pass , along with other attractions ($99).
Wabash Arts Corridor
It is a graffiti area in the Loop of Chicago. In 2013, this project was launched, consisting of offering the walls of the South Loop of Downtown Chicago to art students and emerging artists to turn the area into a true open-air museum. You can enjoy his street art on Wabash Avenue from Van Buren to Roosevelt.
As we have seen, Chicago is a city that promotes art and culture and so that all its residents and visitors can enjoy it, several sculptures have been placed around its streets. There is a specific area where three of the most important are concentrated:
– The Picasso , would you dare to define it? Some say that it is a dog, others that it is a fox… even that it is a bird! We are left with the fact that he is a Picasso, that you don’t always have to look for the answer to everything!
– Miro’s Statue , another work by a Spanish artist that doesn’t require much explanation.
– Calder’s Flamingo , they did give this one a definition, although it’s what flamenco has what I’m like a little mouse, Perez.
Transport yourself to Gotham City
For Batman geeks, this little corner of Chicago probably sounds familiar: it’s LaSalle Street with Jackson Blvd and it’s where some of the Gotham City scenes are set.
Also Read: Top 10 lookout points in New York
Another location, this time from a series, is the federal prison, one of the few located in the center of an American city. Apparently a chapter of the series Orange is the new black was recorded here , and the protagonist spent time behind bars in real life.
Chicago River Walk
Chicago is one of the most “walkable” cities in the United States, to reinforce this theory is the Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway that runs along part of the banks of the Chicago River, neither more nor less than in downtown itself. Although it’s hard to forget that you’re in a big city (skyscrapers will never go away), it’s quite nice to walk around here, plus there are plenty of seating areas, restaurants and cafes.
Look at the twin buildings of the Marina Towers, and especially their first floors: they are the ones for parking and you will only see the back of the cars, apparently they have professional valet to nail the car in place, to that no clumsy stays with the accelerator full and goes flying.
Tip: don’t miss an architecture river cruise , it’s one of the best things to see and do in Chicago. This is very good.
Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station.
The only buildings that remained standing after the great fire in Downtown Chicago were these two, and they have become the symbol of the old city and the spirit of recovery. They are two strange stone constructions that look with their necks stretched out at their new and imposing neighbors made of steel and glass, but in the past they were the ones that broke the cord. They date from the 1860s and served as a reservoir and pump for water distribution to the city. Today they host free art exhibitions.
Chicago Public Libraries
There are two that deserve a visit, they are these:
– Harold Washington Library Center , in the heart of the Loop, it’s hard not to see it if you walk near it, because the mass of red brick is impressive. Go up to the 9th floor to see their “garden”, which actually only has like 4 trees, but it’s a really cool space.
– Chicago Cultural Center , where you can see a striking glass dome. But beware, it is not the only one! Lose yourself a little in the building to find another much less known room with another huge dome, almost as impressive as the main one. In addition there are some free exhibitions that you can visit (and bathrooms!).
Eat the typical Chicago pizza
You may not know that one of the best things to see and do in Chicago is: eat! Specifically the Chicago-style pizza, the city’s star dish. This strange pizza looks more like an empanada or meatloaf, but it’s delicious anyway! Ok, we are easy to please and we are not a great example to issue culinary criticism, you try it and tell us. Oh, and keep in mind that they are real bombs, you will probably order one and eat half, so you know, do not leave what is left and take it for dinner, you never know. Two good places to try it are Giordano’s and Pizzeria Uno .
Tour the Chicago Loop from above
The Loop is Chicago’s financial district and the area where we fell in love with Chicago (or at least I did, Rober). Everything, and I repeat, EVERYTHING I was seeing in these streets I liked, but even the darkest and stinkiest alley, or the dirtiest sewer, seemed charming to me. And a good way to get around this area is by getting on an elevated train that goes around (the so-called “L” System).
Start Route 66
And if not start, at least visit the place where Route 66 officially begins. It will be our next adventure that starts in a few days, although we will start it from another point… follow our articles and we will tell you more!
Also Read: Best places to visit in Los Angeles
Know the beaches of Chicago
If you take a swim in Lake Michigan at any time other than July or August you will probably end up calling your health insurance with an onset of hypothermia. But if you’re passing through Chicago in the summer, why not take the opportunity to cool off? There are several urban beaches along the lake that will surely convince you.
If you are interested in the history of the mafia in the United States, you can take a tour that will take you to learn more about the mafia in Chicago and its most influential figures, such as Al Capone and John Dillinger.
These are our recommendations for the best things to see and do in Chicago , we truly enjoy it like dwarfs, and you? Do you know more things to visit in this city of Illinois? Leave us your recommendations in a comment!